Published January 04, 2011
NEW YORK – Unless the voters throw a real curve, Bert Blyleven should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Same for Roberto Alomar.
When the results are released Wednesday afternoon, it might be even more interesting to see the numbers posted by Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire. Jeff Bagwell, too.
Blyleven and Alomar both came within a few ballots in last year's election by the Baseball Writers' Association of America — no one who's come so close has ever been shut out for good.
Pat Gillick already is in the lineup for the induction ceremonies July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y. The longtime executive was chosen last month by the Veterans Committee, and he enhanced his place with a trade for Alomar that helped bring World Series trophies to Toronto in 1992-93.
Gillick would gladly share the Hall podium with Alomar.
"I think it would be tremendous. I think he's well deserving. Probably he's the best second baseman that I've seen all-around, defensively and offensively, probably in the last 20 years," Gillick said a few minutes after his election was announced.
"I think that he certainly should be given strong consideration. I know he was very close last year, and so certainly, I hope that he would make it. It would be a thrill if he did make it and that we could both go in at the same time," he said.
Alomar drew 397 votes (73.7 percent) in his first try and fell eight short of the required 75 percent.
Alomar won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, was a 12-time All-Star and a career .300 hitter. Full of baseball smarts and grace, he's also linked with one of the game's most tawdry moments — he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument in 1996. The two later made up, and Hirschbeck has rooted for Alomar to make the Hall.
This will be Blyleven's 14th time on the ballot, leaving him one more try with the BBWAA electorate if he misses. The curveballer was just five votes shy of selection last year and drew 74.2 percent.
Blyleven finished with 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts and a pair of World Series rings. His numbers have gotten a boost in recent years by sabermetricians, who have found more modern ways to evaluate baseball statistics.
Blyleven's path toward the Hall has been a slow, steep one, having once drawn the backing of only 14.1 percent. He is trying to become the first pure starting pitching to get chosen by the BBWAA since Nolan Ryan in 1999.
Palmeiro is on the ballot for the first time. His numbers are impressive: He is joined by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the lone players in history with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
But blunting Palmeiro's bid is a failed drug test that led to a Major League Baseball suspension in 2005. That penalty came several months after he wagged his finger at members of Congress and told them: "I have never used steroids. Period."
Palmeiro has mostly kept his distance from the baseball world since then. Recently, he reiterated the anabolic steroid that caused his positive test came in a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
"I hope the voters judge my career fairly and don't look at one mistake," Palmeiro told SI.com.
McGwire has never gotten even 25 percent support in his four times on the ballot. This election will mark the first since the former home run champion admitted he took steroids and human growth hormone.
"This has nothing to do with the Hall of Fame," he told The Associated Press last January after another miss. "This has to do with me coming clean, getting it off my chest, and five years that I've held this in."
Bagwell's situation is more tricky.
His career stats are among the best for first basemen since World War II — .297 batting average, .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. He hit 449 home runs, topped 1,500 RBIs and runs, ran the bases well and played hard. He was Rookie of the Year, NL MVP and a Gold Glove winner.
To some, Bagwell's candidacy is a referendum on the Steroids Era. Unlike Palmeiro, McGwire and other boppers in the 1990s and 2000s, Bagwell's accomplishments were never tarnished by failed drug tests or public admissions. But even absent any evidence, many voters and fans aren't sure yet how to assess the big numbers put up by the game's biggest hitters.
Former MVPs Larry Walker and Juan Gonzalez also are on the ballot for the first time, along with Kevin Brown and John Franco.